1 John 4:13-15 NASB
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of
His Spirit. (14) We have seen and testify
that the Father has sent the Son to be
the Savior of the world. (15) Whoever
confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
Live in Him
The relationship between God and the Christian is designed
to be so tight that we live in him, and he lives in us. You have, as it were, a
lifetime houseguest in the Holy Spirit. Consider for a moment how you treat a
You sacrifice the present to favor your houseguest. A
houseguest makes demands upon your time; you wind up rearranging your schedule
to accommodate that person. So it might well be asked to you do the same for
the Holy Spirit?
You sacrifice the pleasant to favor your houseguest. Your
home is designed to be comfortable; sometimes your guest winds up in your own
favorite easy chair. We could then ask whether or not you do the same for the
Holy Spirit? Do you give up pleasant things because you have the Holy Spirit?
You sacrifice the private to favor your houseguest. If you
don't think so, just whose bathroom do they use? One look in your medicine
cabinet will tell someone an awful lot about you. Are there things you trying
to hide from the Holy Spirit?
It's tough to give a really good analogy for this, but you
could say that the Christian is immersed in the Holy Spirit. It's a day-to-day
relationship like no other; in fact, the marriage relationship is often used to
describe it. And the relationship between Christ and his church is used to
describe the marriage relationship. It's that close.
Indeed, we are told that the body is the Temple of the Holy
Spirit. This perhaps makes more sense to people in John's time than it does to
us. We don't see a temple as being necessary. But do consider that this is in
fact the relationship we have — and for that reason the human body carries with
it a certain amount of sacredness. It is a major point of dispute with the
postmodern movement; are we nothing but animals, or are we indeed home to the
Holy Spirit? How is the average man to tell?
If the average Christian doesn't give off evidence of the
Holy Spirit, the average observer is not going to see any such thing. So how do
we display the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within?
The most obvious way is from our confession and our testimony. If
you never mentioned Jesus Christ, how are they to know?
Another obvious way is from the fruit of the Spirit. If the
Spirit lives within you, the results should be evident.
Perhaps the most telling is also the most where: merciful
forgiveness. As Christ is merciful and forgiving towards us, so we should be
merciful and forgiving towards others.
Technically speaking, there is a difference between
confession and testimony. A "confession of faith" usually is a
proclamation to the world, based on a particular formula, which tells the world
what you believe. We may now examine the elements of such a confession:
We believe that Jesus is the Christ — that is to say, the Messiah
promised to the Jewish people in over 1500 years of prophecy.
We believe in the incarnation — that is to say, that Jesus of
Nazareth was and is fully human.
We believe that Jesus is the son of God – that is to say, that he
is fully divine.
Please note something: to say that he is fully divine
implies that you are obedient to his commands — even if those commands conflict
with the law of the day. Permit me a current example. There are several
Catholic universities in the United States. They are being told that under
Obama care they will be required to provide (via healthcare coverage)
abortions, abortion pills, contraceptives of all types and the encouragement to
use them. The postmodern view is that religion is something you do in your
silence — and we’ll see to it that there is no silence. Your tax dollars at
1 John 4:16-18 NASB
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is
love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (17) By this, love is perfected with us, so that we
may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in
this world. (18) There is no fear in love;
but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one
who fears is not perfected in love.
God Is Love
Please remember that John is the philosopher of the
apostles. When he speaks this way, he is speaking within the philosophical
framework of his time. The implication is that love is so much within God as to
require that the existence of God implies the existence of love. Aquinas would
tell us that God is his attributes, and one of his attributes his love. The
supreme example of that love of course is given at the Cross.
So it is no great logical leap to say that to live in God is
to live in love. We can turn that around; if you are living in love — that's
your lifestyle — then you are living in God. It's a little more complicated
than that, but you get the idea. Love is so much in his nature that you cannot
be a child of God and fail to love at the same time. It is logically
There is a logical problem for most of us. God is eternal
and unchanging; his love never varies. We are mortal human beings; we change
and our love therefore varies. To understand how this works we must understand
how to make something perfect. The word "perfect" does not mean (in
this context) flawless; it means perfectly fit for a given purpose. The perfect
screwdriver isn't much use as a jackhammer. So we need to understand the
purpose of this perfection. That purpose is simple: it is to make us confident
on the day of judgment. The idea is that we will have lived so long as a part
of God's love, reflecting him in our everyday lives, that we will know for a
fact that the judgment will not do anything other than reward us.
The key verb here is "abide." It means not just to
live someplace, but to continue, to endure, to stand. You see the point; love
is something that you continue to do and continue to be. An act of love once is
not what were talking about. The lifetime of love is what God is driving for
here – because he wants you to be like him for eternity.
No Fear in Love
When you first read that statement, "there is no fear
in love," it seems rather ridiculous. First, we are taught to fear God.
Then, we all know that no matter how much we love, this life still gives us
fear. So what is John talking about?
To begin with, you cannot cause love to arise out of fear.
No one has ever been scared into loving someone. So just because you fear God
doesn't imply you love him. As James says, the demons believe — and shudder.
Fear of God is a recognition of who he is; love of God is the correct response
to it. As Paul once said,
Philippians 2:12-13 NASB
(12) So then, my beloved, just as you have
always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,
work out your salvation with fear and trembling; (13)
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Take a good look at that passage. It starts out implying
that our salvation is something we need to work on — and then explains that it
is God doing the work. Love operates in a similar manner; we imitate God, God
strengthens us. Love overrides fear — and thus we rise in the faith.
Of course, if you are a real Christian you will be tested
this. The day will come when your spiritual mind says you need to love, and the
world says you need to hate. The greater that your love is, the more it will
cast out the fear of ridicule and ostracism and thus allow you to love as God
1 John 4:19-21 NASB
We love, because He first loved us. (20) If
someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for
the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he
has not seen. (21) And this commandment we
have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
Cause and Effect
Despite the thinking of the emerging church, it is not
normal for human beings to love unconditionally as God does. God understands
that about us; we work by cause and effect. God, therefore, must initiate the
process by which we grow in love. The cause of unconditional love in human
beings is the love of God acting on our behalf – at the Cross.
Human beings look at this with somewhat difficult thoughts.
The problem from the human perspective is that we want to repay God for that
love; that's the way all human love works. Human love is not unconditional, but
comes with strings attached. We are so accustomed to this paradigm when God
loves us unconditionally, we still want to pay him back. But we can't. So what
do we do then?
Let me share with you something that was written for my
mother's funeral, and distributed as a bookmark there.
As the wife
of an Army Finance Officer, John, the couple was often stationed in remote
locations. During his 20 years of service they helped friends and acquaintances
in time of trouble and in turn they were helped by others. They knew they could
never repay those who helped them so they did the best thing: they helped
others. This became known to the family as "Pass It On". They
remained true to this tradition all of their lives.
Love, in the Christian sense, is a beautiful virtue. It
graces those who have it to the point of beauty. It therefore is a prime target
for hypocrisy. Curiously enough, the usual motive for hypocrisy — wanting to
appear to be something you aren't — isn't really the case here. There are other
motives. Two of them – greed and stinginess — relate to money. We want to be
known is loving, without taking our wallet. The temptation is to cluck
sympathetically, at the victim on the shoulder and say, "better luck next
time," and move on, feeling good about ourselves.
Another such cause is hatred. The real test of this comes
when the person you so dislike stumbles and falls. The temptation is to crow,
to point out all your warnings, and to let everyone know how justified and
vindicated you think you are. But your Heavenly Father, who causes his rain to
fall on the just and the just, would have you do differently. Such an event is
a divine appointment; do not let it slip by.
Of course, this since of doing what you should be doing,
loving those who are not like you is exactly what various charities are
depending upon when they send you junk mail solicitations. At some point good
stewardship must take hold. But make those decisions in compassion not in
We have not put too much stress on this, but the requirement
on the Christian to love as God loves is just that – a requirement. It is
something that at the very least you do in obedience to God. You should also do
it in imitation of Christ, but sometimes we know obedience and we don't know
imitation. Therefore, the least you can do is obey – and you should do that.
A strange thing happens, though. As you grow in Christ, your
God like love becomes less and less dependent on obedience and more and more
joyful as you learn to be like Christ. You grow into love. A lot of human
activity works this way. Remember learning to ride a bicycle? You started with
training wheels, so the bike could not fall over. Then came the day that the
training wheels came off — and at first it seemed that bicycle was out to get
you. But with a little practice you got to stay upright. Later, you didn't even
think about it – it just worked that way. So it is with love.
You have to remember this: you are a work in progress. God
is not yet finished perfecting you. That implies two things: one, don't be so
hard on yourself when you fail. Two, always be open to his path for your
growth. Learn from your mistakes, and grow in grace.